It has all the makings of an Urban Legend. 54 sailors are entombed aboard the sunken hulk of the USS Utah. That fact is not in dispute. Many sailors find their final resting place within the sunken ship they served on.
But deep within this dark watery grave are the remains of two day old Nancy Lynn Wagner. Nancy was the daughter of Chief Yeoman Albert T.D. Wagner, the senior yeoman on board the USS Utah. This is her story.
Nancy, and her twin sister Mary Dianne were born prematurely on Aug. 29, 1937 in Mekati in the Philippines. Nancy only survived for 2 days. Mary had a hard time as well, and wasn’t allowed home for four months.
As a career sailor, Chief Wagner felt it would be a fitting tribute to have his daughter’s cremated ashes scattered at sea. While assigned to the Utah, he placed the urn with her ashes in his locker, waiting for a Chaplain to report onboard to conduct a Burial at Sea ceremony.
But he never got the chance. Struck by three torpedoes in the opening minutes of the attack, the Utah capsized within 15 minutes. Chief Wagner made it off the ship alive, but without Nancy.
Divers tried to enter the crews quarters 2 weeks later, but were unable to reach Chief Wagner’s quarters to retrieve the urn.
And so, today, the USS Utah is the final resting place for 54 sailors. And one baby girl.
As a footnote, on December 7th, 2003, a funeral service was held at the Utah memorial for Nancy Lynn Wagner. Her twin sister, Mary Kreigh, with other family members, as well as active and reserve sailors were in attendance. At long last, her sister has received the memorial service her father wanted her to have so many years ago.
Link to confirm for the skeptical: